Chapter Eleven

There is some movie verse in this chapter.

William sat by the fire in his tent, his wife's handkerchief--her pledge to him--resting unnoticed in his hands. The fire filled the tent with great warmth, but his flesh was cold. He felt absolutely nothing, which was odd to him. He killed the murdering bastard who dared to kill his wife. His hometown was free of control from the hated English.

And he felt nothing.

Vengeance did not bring his wife back. Nothing would. Dear Lord, I want to stop thinking of her, but I cannot. Please, please, just let me get through this night without seeing her face, without hearing her laughter. He wanted to get through just one night without remembering what it was like to share himself with her. They were going to have children; they were going to settle down on his old family farm, and share their lives with one another.

God apparently didn't agree with his plans. Now Marion was dead. He killed the man, imprinting God's justice. Would it stop here? Unfortunately, no. Home was not in his future.

"…William?" He didn't hear his name called, or the soft footsteps of a woman. "Will--" he felt her hand on his shoulder, and he spun around, eyes wild, nostrils flaring.

"Campbell sent me for you. He said someone is coming…" without a word to Marjory, he left the tent, and ran up to Campbell, to find out what the commotion was about. The old man stood by the road, pointing out at a small gaggle of men. "It's the MacGregors. From the next clan."

William wanted to say, "So?" He kept silent as the presumed leader of the clan ran up to him, out of breath. "We heard about what was happenin'. And we don't want you omadhauns thinkin' ye can 'ave your fun without us." The clan murmured in agreement, "That's right, that's right."

Fun? They thought they were doing this…for fun? William tucked his wife's handkerchief back into his tunic, and sighed. "Go home." The MacGregors looked at him as if he was insane, but he didn't care. "Some of are in this…can't help that now. But you can help yourselves…go home." He turned away, thinking that was the end of it.

"We'll have no homes left when the English garrison from the castle comes through and burns us out." William turned back around, the leader pointing his finger at him. "And they will."

The man talked with an air of "you know it will happen." William knew he was right…the English, in retaliation for the Scottish insurrection, would torch any home in their path. "Alright." He nodded, and welcomed the men, excusing himself after a few minutes to go back to his tent. He pushed the flap open, and stepped inside, staring with sadness at the woman sitting by the fire. Seeing any kind of woman brought back his pain, and memories of his wife.

"William…" she scrambled to her feet. "I…Hamish told me about your wife, Marion."

"And what do you make of me now?" No emotion crept into his voice, as meant to. Why show his emotions to someone who didn't care for him?

"I know why you hate the English so much. I see why you took me from my father's house. And I see what I've been trying to deny these many weeks…you are human, not the barbaric monster I painted you to be." She came closer to him, and placed one hand on his cheek. His breathing quickened at her touch; the warmth of her palm seeped into his skin.

"You are human. I just ask one thing of you…please; get me back to my father, as quickly as possible. Please." She removed her hand and left his tent, not looking back.

"She had no shoes," he whispered, thinking it odd that this particular thought popped up. Shaking his head, he moved closer to the fire, sat down.

The tent flap opened again, and this time, Campbell, Hamish, and Andrew entered.

"Well, well, lad…" Campbell boomed. No queries as to why he wasn't joining in the celebrations came out of anyone's mouth. The three took seats around the fire; Hamish to William's left, Andrew to his right, Campbell across from him. "What is our course of action?"

"You mean after this spectacular victory?" Andrew grinned. "Lanark finally out of English hands?" He raised an imaginary tankard of ale in the air. "Cheers."

Hamish chuckled. "Come off it."

"Well…" William stretched his legs out in front of him, bending them at the knee. "Have you burnt the corpse of Heselrig yet?"

"We did not," Hamish said. "We wanted to wait for your orders on that one."

"Good. I am going to dismember that bastard. He deserves neither a burial nor a burning, God forgive me." He crossed himself. "As to what we'll do after that…we shall leave a few of our men to hold down the city of Lanark, then 'tis on to Loudon Hill, and the salacious Lord Bottoms."

At the mention of the name Bottoms, Andrew's face grew stony. The man Bottoms took his wife, on the day of their wedding, for the bloody prima noctes. "I have plans for him."

"That you do," William stated. "That's why we're going…so that you may extract your vengeance." In part. The other half was to rid Scotland of all English garrisons, and Loudon Hill seemed as good a place as any. "It will take a while to get there…so we will start out tomorrow." Standing, the others stood up with him. "Hamish, make sure the men are ready for tomorrow. Gather some uniforms off the non-burned English dead. Campbell, designate a few able men that can take care of the town. Andrew…see after Marjory."

"When will be rid of the English tart?" Campbell said, trying to make William smile. "I actually am growing fond of the lass."

"As well as I," Hamish said. Andrew only grunted in response.

"Upon reaching Loudon Hill, any Englishmen who do not resist, we keep them alive, and send word of Miss Debaye's capture with them, along to the great General. We'll request five thousand pounds sterling, and have word sent back to us in some form. We won't be rid of her just yet." The tone of his voice indicated to the three the conversation was over, and they left the tent, leaving William alone again.

Marjory's slippers were truly lost, and her feet were freezing. This was one of the few times she cursed Scottish weather. She found the nearest cookfire and huddled, putting her feet as close to the warmth as possible without searing the flesh. Thank goodness for her warm robe.

A few minutes passed, and Andrew came over to her, sitting down beside her.

"William asked me to come see after you." She didn't look at him, merely stared into the fire like William did moments before. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine…despite the fact I lost my shoes." She pointed at her feet, and Andrew smiled.

"No shoes, hmm. We'll see about that." He reached into his boot, pulled out a knife, and grasped the hem of her robe. He cut a large swatch of cloth from the hem, and motioned for her to stick her foot out. She obliged, turning away from the fire and toward him, sticking out her right foot. Using the knife, he cut the cloth into strips, folding the largest one and putting it over her foot. "That's the boot part," he explained, and took some of the smaller strips, tying them in various parts around the boot, to secure it. "Other foot, then?"

"I'll do it," a voice said, and they both looked up.

"Ah, William." Andrew stood, bending down to put the knife back in his boot. "Have your fun with Heselrig, then?"

He nodded. "I want you to patrol the camp with Hamish, make sure every man is ready for departure tomorrow."

"Aye." Andrew left, leaving her and William alone.

"Lass, your foot?"

"Oh, yes." She offered him her left foot, gasping a bit at his touch, his large hands dwarfing, and the skin warm. His hands lingered longer than she thought possible. "…William?"

"Apologies." He cleared his throat, and fashioned the other boot. "There it is." He stood, and Marjory thought he would leave. Just as quickly as he stood, he sat back down.

"You know Marion was my wife, yes?"

Marjory nodded, wondering where this was going.

"I married her in secret because I would not share her with an English lord. They killed her…Heselrig killed her…to get to me."

His throat tightened and he looked at the ground, balling up his fists to keep from hitting something. "I've never spoken of it to anyone…people know of it; I've never spoken of it. I know Hamish has told you…I don't know why I am telling you, except…" he looked at her, studying her, "Marjory, I see her strength in you."

What strength? She wanted to say, and didn't. Warmth spread inside of her, and not from the fire.

"You must open your eyes to all that goes on around you. You've shown me that you already have, with your earlier comment in the tent. But there is more to the world than just this dividing line between Scotland and England. If I say nothing else to you, remember that fact."

"Alright." She grasped his hand, and squeezed it once. "Alright." He nodded, and stood up, leaving her alone once again.

Sleep came quickly for everyone, the previous evening's events wearing down on their constitution. It was nearly noon when the camp started to rouse, some sober, some still drunk on ale. The few men Campbell designated to stay behind stayed, with much reluctance; watching as the other men gathered up the weapons.

Marjory helped out in whatever way she could, and soon, in a few hours' time, everyone was ready to leave. She walked near the head of the procession, staying near Hamish and Andrew. William led, as per usual, turning around every now and again to look at Marjory. Every time, she nodded, and he nodded and smiled in return, turning back to lead his men.

Days blurred into weeks; mornings blurred into night. It was a relief when they reached the edge of Loudon Hill, where a garrison stood, miniscule from the long distance.

"Hamish!" William yelled, and he came over to his side, murmuring, "Yes?"

"Give Andrew, Campbell, yourself, and some off the other men an English uniform. Let me have one as well." He nodded, and trotted off to the back of the procession, bading the two men carrying large rucksacks to put them down. "Ah, perfect." He opened one, and the other, pulling out the English tunics and armor. "Do these stink," he groaned, and gathered the offending garments up in his arms, handing them to various men as he passed. "Put this on…put this on…" He kept only three, and when he reached the front again, handed the leftover uniforms to Andrew, Campbell, and William.

"These stink," Andrew groaned, while pulling on the tunic, and the minimal armor.

"Well, these once belonged to dead men," Campbell pointed out, as he dressed in the tunic and armor, pulling it on over his shirt and kilt.

"Point taken." William grimaced, as he finished dressing. "Well…how do I look? Passable?"

"Nice." Hamish said, and Andrew and Campbell affirmed with a nod.

"Men!" He faced the long line of men. "Whoever has an English uniform on will be going with Andrew, Hamish, Campbell, and I to Loudon Hill. Those who do not have a uniform on will stay behind and make camp here. Guard…" he pointed to the man in charge of seeing after Marjory, "…you know your job. Look after the lady. Alright men…let's move out!"

They formed a unit, five men in each row, a total of ten rows. Fifty Scotsmen, posing as dead Englishmen, marched from the outskirts to Loudon Hill. The rest stayed behind, making camp, and her guard grumbled again about "…being left behind."

The "unit" marched closer and closer to the garrison; the log gate opened to let them in, not aware they were letting in the enemy. A pompous man, the Lord Bottoms, dressed in red and white, with a little beard and a fat belly, came down the tower steps and walked over to them. He paused, hands on his hips, an arrogance abiding from him.

The men stopped, and William walked over to him, slowly pulling off the metal helmet so it would obscure his face.

"So…what news?"

William dropped the helmet to reveal his face, and punched Bottoms in the jaw. He fell to the ground, and in the time it took him to rise to his feet, the unit rushed the other men, holding them at bay.

"I have dispatched a hundred soldiers to Lanark! They will be returning…" he held up his finger, as if to punctuate his point, "…now!"

"Were they dressed like this?" He tugged at his tunic, and smiled wryly at Bottoms, watching as his eyes bugged out. "Actually, it was more like fifty. "Andrew," he turned, and mumbled, "make it quick." He stood by a wayward horse, attempting to give Andrew some modicum of privacy by turning his back. He couldn't see, but he could hear.

"Do you remember me?"

"I never did her any harm…'twas my right!"

"Your right? Well, I am here to claim the right of a husband!"

Bottoms screamed, and the axe hacked into his flesh once, twice. That was all it took. "Bastard," Andrew hissed, and spit on him, walking back to William. He nodded, and William turned around, addressing the Englishmen. "You have not resisted, and thus I shall tell you this: I am William Wallace, and the rest of you will be spared." His men released their hold on the Englishmen. "Now, Englishmen, go back to your England, and tell them that Scotland's daughters and her sons are yours no more. Tell them Scotland is free." The English soldiers ran past the Scots, a blur of red and silver polished armor.

One lad, William stopped…a skinny, gawky lad quivering in fear at the Scottish warrior. "Take word of this back to your king and his General: we have the general's daughter, Marjory. If he wants her back, he will have to pay five thousand pounds sterling."

"Y-y-yes, sir." He ran past, without a single glance back.

When the garrison was emptied of all save William's men, he shouted, "Burn it! Burn it all!"